“And ye shall seek me and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. And I will be found of you, saith the Lord: and I will turn away your captivity, and I will gather you from all the nations... .”(Jeremiah 29: 13-14 to second ,).
“And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” (Romans 12: 2).
“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.” (Isaiah 26: 3).
“For thus saith the Lord God...in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength...” (Isaiah 30: 15).'
In the world today, there are many who search for the presence and kingdom of God, to attain and know the blessings and saving grace that one finds there. Some seekers would give a fortune to be finders. Yet, the divine Intelligence we call God can be found, in some measure, by the smallest, poorest child, who doesn't have a cent to offer. For even a child can have the desire and dedication that making this God-connection requires. Still, dedication is effort; and in our human sense of identities, we don't like effort much. As we become adults, we generally like to expend the minimum amount of effort that we deem necessary to accomplish anything.
I come by that assessment honestly. In my youth, I once wanted to achieve the goal of being a concert pianist. Here's what happened: In grade school, I already knew how to chord on the piano, and so I could play by ear, in a manner, by chording with the left hand and picking out the melody with the right. With this method, I could play almost any song I wanted to, and have it nearly perfected, in a very simple way, within about a half hour's time.
Yet, I wanted to be a great pianist, so I begged my parents to let me take piano lessons. For four, long years, I put what I thought was proper effort into my plan. I decided that I could practice a half hour (30 minutes) every day, and soon be really good on the piano. But reading notes was a whole new approach for me. It was hard work. Still, true to my own sense of effort, I continued to practice for a half-hour each day (whenever it wasn't baseball season, because I also loved to play baseball).
One day, four years later, I was a student in eighth grade, and my junior high school was having a surprise assembly. The principal liked these surprise assemblies, because he was theatrical at heart, and used them to put on stage performances of various types. On that day, one of my classmates was sitting at a grand piano on stage. She began to play “The Flight of the Bumblebee.” Within seconds, the entire audience of students and teachers was awe-struck. The grand piano came to life, thundered through the auditorium, in a flawless performance that should have been given at Carnegie Hall. When she finished, the stunned silence continued for a moment, and then everyone rose to their feet in roaring applause. Mouths were literally hanging open, including my own. We recognized a master, even though many of us had been classmates of this individual for almost two complete years and didn't even know she played the piano.
The distance between her performance and my own ability at the piano was too far to see across. After school, when everyone else finally left her side, I approached her with a simple question: “About how many minutes do you practice each day, to become that good?” To which she replied with complete innocence, “Well, in the summer I practice eight hours a day, but during the school year I can only practice about six hours a day.”
You'll understand why, within days, I gave up my own career on the piano and saved my parents any more needless expense. It took me that long to face the truth about my own, pitiful idea of what constituted 'effort' in becoming a great pianist.
Now, maybe if I had loved the piano with all my heart, soul, and mind, I would have made the adjustment to my life needed to become such an artist. But I didn't love anything that much. I faced the truth that I would never give it that amount of effort, and so I happily went back to my own method of playing and gave up reading music. Nor did I ever progress much more on the piano.
Am I suggesting, then, that in order to find spiritual enlightenment and our connection to God we must commit six to eight hours a day to the search? No. Seeking God and the kingdom of heaven within us takes a different kind of discipline. It takes a perpetual effort to turn away, several times daily, from the whole material scene, and to perceive the spiritual universe of God's creating--to acknowledge the invisible presence of the Almighty, realize God's sovereignty, and even thank the divine One for blessings seen and unseen. It takes a determination to re-adjust our priorities, putting spiritual things first and our material desires second; for only in this way will we remember that there is something beyond this miserable human existence, where evil seems so prevalent, and good so short-termed or absent. Only by reminding ourselves, daily, of an invisible spiritual kingdom and reality, do we find its spiritual laws and power, operating on our behalf, right where the physical scene claims to exist, with all its wants and woes. Only by remembering Spirit's realm, do we become, again, inhabitants of it--pulling ourselves out of the mesmeric physical acceptance of life, health and all things, back into the divine reality, with all its benefits.
These turning times don't have to take a great deal of time out of our days. The great spiritual people of the Bible, such as Daniel, show a pattern of this daily turn in consciousness from the material to the divine, that fit in well with their other duties of daily life. It was written of Daniel that “...he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God...”(Daniel 6: 10). No doubt, this daily habit sustained his memory when he was thrown to the hungry lions. He became familiar with God and heavenly laws. Metaphorically speaking, he lived his life with one foot on the material plane, and one foot in the spiritual realm, heaven. These precious moments of the day which he committed to God were certainly a priority for Daniel, or else they would have been left undone.
Seeking the kingdom of God and its spiritual laws isn't something one should seek only when in trouble. The renewing of the mind that sustains safety on the material plane serves us best when we're always in a state of mind that has a conscious awareness of the spiritual realm, ever-present with us. The prophet Isaiah informs us, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.” (Isaiah 26: 3). This 'perfect peace' is probably what Christ Jesus had in mind when he stated, “Peace I leave unto you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14: 27). We really can accomplish this more peaceful state of mind by reminding ourselves daily of spiritual things.
We are the ones to benefit from a daily, persistent practice and reinforcement of spiritual awareness. Trusting in the presence and power of God destroys our belief in and fears of other powers. This state of 'trust' or faith in consciousness obeys the first commandment, “Thou shalt have no other gods (powers) before me.” (Exodus 20: 3) (my emphasis). It helps us to “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” (Proverbs 3: 5).
But we can't be in this state of mind if the world around us has taken over our thinking. That's why it's important to withdraw our attention, as often during the day as we can, to remember spiritual reality and God's ever-presence and divine control over Its own creation, including our lives, health, provision, and safety. Our determination to stay in this conscious awareness of God's invisible presence, kingdom and ultimate power for good in our lives is shown in the effort we put forth daily to keep this awareness in the forefront of our minds. Then when trouble threatens us in some way, we won't be stunned by its false boast of power over us.
A couple of weeks ago, for several days, my life was inundated with chores and duties that distracted me from turning, daily, to God's presence and truth of being. During this time, I found it increasingly hard to avoid reacting to the claims of disease and terrorism on TV. I began to particularly feel that I was losing touch with my ability, and confidence, to heal claims of physical disease. I clearly knew that I'd been neglecting my habit of reminding myself of spiritual reality each day. So, one night, while quite exhausted from the hectic pace I'd been on, I prayed to God, the divine Intelligence, to find a way to renew my comprehension that sickness wasn't true of spiritual being, and thus not something that could belong to God's children. I prayed to be brought back into a state of quietness, peace and confidence in God's loving control over all.
The answer came to me in an odd way: that night, I dreamt that I was riding a bicycle in a city, and suddenly didn't remember where I was. I couldn't remember my way home. In the dream, while trying to remember, I felt that I was losing my mind, or at least my memory. It was quite frightening. Yet, as I was awakening from the dream, and before I was fully awake, I began to realize that I didn't have to fear the suggestion of loss of memory or mind, for I had no physical mind to lose. There's only One Mind, One real Intelligence, and we're all connected to it. God, I knew, upheld the only Mind I had--God's own Intelligence, that flows through all life in creation. My mind and memories could never be erased, for I was at one with God, and God couldn't be erased.
When I fully awakened, these thoughts flooded my consciousness (and I'm paraphrasing according to my recollection): 'You see how easily you handled that claim of loss of mind or memory? You acknowledged the One Mind, upheld by God. This is what you must also do concerning the body. There's only one body, and that One body is spiritual and upheld by God, just as the One Mind is upheld by God. God created the mind, body and soul of all. And that creation is spiritual, not material. You have no physical body separated from God, in reality, to keep healthy. Your only body, and the only body anyone has, is spiritual in substance and essence, and it obeys only spiritual law, which is the law of eternal life. Nothing in this material sense of existence can reach, alter, or damage your real body, safe in God's care forever. Your eternal life and health is assured, just as your continuance of mind or conscious awareness of all is assured, no matter what the fleshly manifestation is doing. Have as much confidence in the truth of Body as you do concerning the truth about what the true Mind is. When fear is replaced by faith, your fleshly form will adjust back to wholeness.'
That dream experience and the mental lesson was all I needed to restore my sense of spiritual confidence and balance. My one, tiny prayer to God before sleep (which took about twenty seconds) was all that was needed to have the divine power come forward into my thoughts and life, even as I slept. This is how close God is to all of us. Our link to God is in consciousness. But we have to know this and turn to it, whenever we can, on any subject. And this does take discipline, for this human experience has plenty of distractions--thus the need to make it a high priority in one's life. For the more often we turn and talk to God, the more spiritualized into harmony our human experience becomes. More is better.
Progress, in all things, comes from a building of one thing upon another. For example, in the biblical book of James, (Chapter 15, verse 5) we read, “And the prayer of faith shall save the sick...”. Now, this sounds simple, but faith is built upon understanding something, and understanding is built upon becoming familiar with that thing, and familiarity is built upon conscious awareness of it. In other words, we must first become consciously aware of something, (such as the invisible kingdom of God) and then we get to know and understand it more. Our new understanding develops into faith and trust as our divine consciousness within unfolds more and more spiritual truth.
So it is that seeking God and Its kingdom of eternal, heavenly harmony is found within our own, spiritual consciousness; but once found, we must remain aware of it there, and then visit it often. This reinforcement is needed until we fully comprehend and know the place. Then we'll trust its spiritual laws and God's loving control over all without great effort. Becoming a finder isn't a passive thing; it takes effort. It bears out the lesson I learned, so long ago, from my dedicated pianist classmate, and I passed it along to my students when I taught school. I often told them, “the only difference between you and anyone who has accomplished any great thing, is practice.”
Some may have developed and express great talents that seem to be personal to them. But this is an illusion. All ability, all gifts, come from God, our infinite Source--and in truth, we all have this same, infinite Source within our very being. Our ability to humanly develop spiritual enlightenment is no different. The Source within is ready and willing to pour out Its infinite being through us, whenever we become aware of Its presence with us. And It only asks, not hours, but a few moments of our time and attention each day, to help us along this path.